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Foto: Oscar Pérez - El Espectador.com
Foto: Oscar Pérez - El Espectador.com

One-third of Colombia is in a quarantine drill

Faced with the accelerated growth of COVID-19 in Colombia, the mayor of Bogotá and several governors made a progressive decision: a quarantine drill. 

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The first case of COVID-19 arrived in Colombia on March 6 in a traveler coming from Italy. Since then, the number of confirmed cases has grown significantly, with 102 confirmed cases to date, and the number is sure to continue rising.

The response of Bogotá's mayor's office was more efficient than that of the nation. The national government was continuing to allow the entry of foreigners for 16 more days (the definitive closure of international entries was going to be effective on Monday, March 23), which made possible the entry of more positive patients for COVID-19 and accelerated their spread in the country.

The city's mayor's office, on the other hand, was much more efficient in adopting measures to slow down the rate of contagion and interactions between people (measures such as installing permanent bicycle lanes to encourage the use of bicycles instead of regular public transport, developing contingency plans in hospitals to expand their capacity long before they become saturated, and organizing women micro-entrepreneurs to manufacture masks that are then disinfected, distributed and used by the Health Secretariat).

In addition, several institutions such as universities have been supportive by ordering virtual classes -even before President Iván Duque decreed the cessation of face-to-face classes in all public and private schools in the country- and offering their laboratories to support the diagnostic work of the National Institute of Health.

Despite this and the fact that a large part of the population has decided to adopt measures of social distancing before the government imposed them, Colombia - like much of the planet - is still behind in the fight against COVID-19.

As a measure to anticipate and avoid the crisis, Claudia López, the mayor of the city of Bogotá, made the decision of carrying out a quarantine drill that began today, Friday, March 20, and will last until the end of Monday, March 23.

This measure, which, due to its educational nature, seems to be unique in the world, seeks to slow down the spread of the virus and to understand what economic and social containment measures will have to be adopted when a longer quarantine is necessary, such as those we are currently seeing in European cities. 

The measure adopted in the city of Bogotá was joined by the departments of Cundinamarca, Meta, Boyacá and Santander, and the quarantine drill will affect more than 14 million people, just over a third of the population in a country with 48 million inhabitants.

A train crash

In the midst of the health and economic crisis looming over Colombia, the clash of forces between the mayor of the Colombian capital, Claudia López, and the President, Iván Duque, has been very evident.

López has always been in open opposition to the president, but during the first press conference, in which she announced her plans for the drill, she also said that it would be carried out in coordination with the national government. The next day, Duque issued a decree that cast doubt on its realization.

Decree 418 of 2020 seeks to centralize the efforts to contain the epidemic in the President of the Republic, placing its provisions above those of any governor or mayor, and obliging mayors and governors to obtain authorization from the Ministry of the Interior for the adoption of any measure, or risk being penalized.

The reaction of the civilian population against the president was overwhelming in a context where his image was already badly damaged after last year's citizen protests. On social media, many citizens demonstrated in favor of the mayor's measures, even if the drill could not be carried out officially and demanding that stronger measures be taken to protect the country. On the night of March 18, the pots and pans were once again heard in several cities across the nation.

Finally, yesterday the president was forced to close the international airports starting Monday, March 23, and to allow the drill to take place; so the pulse ended with a point in Claudia Lopez's favor.

 

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